Sunday 25 February 2018

Duncan Casey: Frustrating to miss out but the lads can deliver another big one

Munster players, including CJ Stander, Billy Holland, Jack O’Donoghue, Donncha O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Dave Kilcoyne and Niall Scannell contest a maul during squad training
Munster players, including CJ Stander, Billy Holland, Jack O’Donoghue, Donncha O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Dave Kilcoyne and Niall Scannell contest a maul during squad training

Duncan Casey

After a fantastic win against Cardiff in Irish Independent Park and a great week of preparation ahead of a gruelling encounter in Parc y Scarlets tomorrow, we seem to have hit the ground running as business resumes in the league. Unfortunately, I had no part to play and won't for another few weeks.

I'll discuss my injury woes in due course but I first want to look back on a great performance by the lads last Saturday. League fixtures during the Six Nations can often be unpredictable. There are usually more than a few changes in personnel at this time and last week was no different. Several guys who were crying out for game time were given an opportunity to impress.

It was an especially big night for two of our academy boys - Jack O'Donoghue and Rory Scannell - who started at eight and ten respectively. After a cagey first half where tit-for-tat penalties were exchanged, the game opened up and we managed to run in three tries. This included one for Jack 'The Geek' (so called due to his being a spectacled student of pharmaceutical chemistry) who turned many heads with a powerful display in his first start in red. I was also delighted to see my old housemate Luke O'Dea take to the field for a timely return to competitive action.


Although naturally pleased with the result, we know we will have to improve significantly over the coming weeks to secure wins against very tough opposition. This block of games will make or break our season. If we come away with four wins, we are likely to sit on top of the table with five games left and a home semi-final in sight. If we slip up, we could be in a dogfight to hold on to fourth spot.

We saw how costly inconsistency in the league can be last year. It's up to us to ensure that we perform for the next three weeks against Scarlets, Glasgow and Ospreys.

Training was noticeably sharp this week. It needed to be in preparation for a predictably tough outing tomorrow afternoon. Our last trip to Scarlets was an unsuccessful one. I made my fifth start for Munster that day. One thing I took away from that game is that the Scarlets pack don't want to run around you - they want to run right through you.

I spent the evening facing down blocky, powerful Welshmen in what was quite an entertaining battle in Llanelli. I was battered by the end of it but enjoyed it immensely. It's always nice to get onto the computers on Monday morning and see high numbers next to your tackle count. That was my highest of the season with 15.

No different to us, the Scarlets are missing some key players for tomorrow's clash. Rhys Priestland and Liam Williams have been at the centre of Scarlets' development over the past couple of seasons. Williams' adventurous approach to playing the game, along with his self-proclaimed role as a professional bomb (garryowen) defuser, have actually made him quite a popular figure among the Munster backs.

Despite the absence of a professional bomb defuser in their ranks, the Scarlets still have much quality to draw from. Michael Tagicakibau has been someone I watched in the Premiership since my school days and he can be a lethal operator when given the chance. The return of captain and Welsh international Ken Owens from a lengthy lay-off will bolster what is an already powerful pack.

As I mentioned already, I won't be playing tomorrow. Or next week for that matter. I am hopeful of a return for the Ospreys game on March 7 but it's too early to tell if that's realistic. What happened? It was quite amusing really. For everyone that was watching at least. After our second last session in La Santa, I was doing some extras at the breakdown. Stealing ball is an area of my game that I would consider a weakness. Therefore, I jump at the chance to work on it whenever I can, which usually comes at the end of pitch sessions.

Some of the lads were doing tackling drills and I was simply coming in after the tackle and practising my body position over the ball. As I came towards the tackle and hinged at the hips, my ankle gave way and I did an ugly version of a tumble as I rolled on to the ground. It must have looked hilarious as everyone laughed until they realised what had happened. The pain wasn't bad but I knew something was wrong.

I was hoping I'd just gotten a fright. I was able to get up and walk into the physio room so Colm Coakley could have a look at it through his incredibly slick new glasses. When I looked down at it though, I knew it wasn't just a fright. My ankle was like a fist. This meant I was condemned to hobbling around on crutches for my last 24 hours in La Santa as I became anxious about how serious the damage was.

A weekend, an X-ray and an MRI later, I was given reasonable good news. Ligaments were torn but not ruptured. This means I'll be looking at four to six weeks on the sideline. I can't complain too much - I've played 15 games and nearly a thousand minutes this season, so I've had a pretty decent run.

Obviously, I'm gutted that I'll miss a vital block of matches which are likely to determine where our season goes. On the other hand if you were to offer me four to six weeks for every injury I got, I'd bite your hand off every time. Things could certainly be worse.

Hopefully, I'll have another win to look back on next Friday. I'm sure the lads will perform well again. Enjoy the game and have a great weekend!

Irish Independent

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